Things I Learned from BBQ Pitmasters

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I occasionally watch TV shows that have all the nutrients of junk food.  More charitably, I might call it “TV for multi-tasking.”  The networks know about suckers like me, because I am legion.   Hard Core Pawn.  Top Shot.  Storage Wars.  American Restoration.  Flipping Boston.   You’re familiar with them, even if you don’t watch them.   They’re the lifeblood of several cable networks.

Add to the list BBQ Pitmasters.  The idea is simple.  Gather a few BBQ cooks, tell them what to cook, and judge the results.   Repeat week after week, and form a playoff system.  The sport isn’t much, just a bunch of guys (and occasionally girls) who love their barbeque and like to brag about it.

Well, it can’t all be a waste of time.  Right?

So, very briefly, here’s what I’ve learned from watching the most recent season of the show (disclaimer, that’s the only season I watched.  The prior seasons may have included other very notable lessons not included here)

1) Purported BBQ pitmasters are colorful people.  I like most of them, but there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance, just like in any other profession.

2) It doesn’t matter what type of grill you use, as long as you know its use and limitations.  That said, there are disadvantages to some in cold or rainy weather.

3) I don’t know that the type of wood matters in the pit.  Not a single judge commented through the season about a noted flavor associated with a particular type of wood.

4) Injections of various juices and secret ingredients do matter, both for moisture and for flavor.

4) Like any competition, know your judges.  Imitation is the sincerest form of... winning.

5) I don’t really care what part of the cow the meat comes from.  But I appreciate that others do and alter their preparations accordingly.


6) What kind of statement are you making when you present BBQ for judging in a Styrofoam container?  Styrofoam is certainly useful for carry-out food, but is it really suitable for formal presentation?  C’mon, at least get a sturdy Chinette platter.  I want my BBQ hot and on a plate.  And not on a bed of lettuce or a container I’d poke a (plastic) fork through.

7) The judges seem to know their stuff, and although they’re informative and provide some consistency from show to show, it’s the pitmasters we watch that entertain and educate... the more colorful accents, the better.  “Mmm, mmm, good!”

But here’s what I really learned.  We consumers at the average BBQ restaurant are getting inferior product.  But that’s not fair to average BBQ restaurants.  It’s true of all BBQ restaurants.  If “pitmasters” are pressed to find a few choice morsels from a prime cut of meat, what does that say about the quality of BBQ served to the hordes at their restaurants?  Clearly, it’s 98% second rate.  Or worse.

Serve it somewhat moist and with a decent flavor, and I’ll resort to applying extra sauce depending on what it needs.   In the meantime, I’ll stick with my theory that the more modest the venue, the better the chances for good BBQ.

1 comment :

  1. The discussion on wood is interesting. I wonder if it is because the pitmasters "know" which wood should be used and do. Hickory & cherry are supposed to be good for meats. Mesquite for chicken. Apple for fish. It's what I use, but sometimes out of fear that by experimenting on a several hour cook, if I am wrong, I just wasted several hours...